As we already know, there are a lot of niches to photograph, and there always paints a question; How to choose the best lens for a particular photo? It is not always so easy to choose a lens for a more specific job. And today’s article deals with exactly how different lenses can make your photos a disaster or a success. Choosing the best lens for your photos involves much more than just whether the lens is fast or slow and some things may surprise you.
Choosing the best lens for your photos. Theory
We usually think of lenses as much simpler than we should think, especially when we are presented with photography. Over time we gain knowledge and trickery and some things start to make more sense. Like when choosing a longer lens, 200mm or 300mm. Or when choosing a shorter lens, 35mm or 18mm without thinking. But the fact is that most of the time the beginner in photography does not know this, because he only has the kit lens, usually an 18-55 mm lens with an F / 3.5 aperture. And even with only the lens in the kit everything you will see in this article works.
And many of these things can impact the quality of the photography you want to do, a very simple thing is the angle of view of the lenses, or how much they can see.
In this regard, we can divide the lenses into families:
- Fisheye (180° viewing angle with focal length between 8 and 16 mm)
- Super wide angle (84° to 114° viewing angle with focal length less than 24 mm)
- Wide angle (viewing angle from 64° to 84° with focal length between 18 to 35mm)
- Normal (viewing angle from 40° to 62° with focal length between 35 to 60mm)
- Medium telephoto (10° to 30° viewing angle with focal length between 85 and 135mm)
- Long telephoto (8° viewing angle with focal length above 300mm)
Note that the longer the lens is, the narrower your field of view is, so if you want to isolate an object it is interesting to use a long lens. However, this requires physical space to be able to use this lens. To use a 300mm lens you will need to be physically distant from what you are photographing.
All of this is very interesting but it doesn’t help that much to solve life when choosing the best lens for the photo.
Choosing the best lens for the photo. Practice
As they always say out there:
“In practice the theory is different”
So let’s move on to something simpler. The first thing to weigh is what kind of photo you are going to take. Will it be a face portrait, will it be a landscape?
This you have to answer now, so you are on a good way for choosing the best lens for your photos.
To make your life as a photographer even easier, we can divide the lens into themes, and then the game is much simpler.
- For street photography use between 24mm – 50mm
- For landscape / Architecture use 16mm – 35mm
- For pictures use between 85mm – 200mm (close)
- For sports use between 70 – 200mm
- For Lifestyle Photos / Documentary use 35mm or 50mm
- Macro photos use 100mm (with macro function on lens)
- Wildlife macro photography use 200mm (with macro function on lens)
- And for wildlife photos recommend using between 200 – 400 mm
Of course, the list above are just tips on which lens works best in every situation. Nothing stops you from taking pictures of a wild lion with a 18mm lens. You will get two results. The first will be a photo of a wide landscape with a small lion in the corner, after all you stayed in the car away from the lion. The second, if you have the courage, is a close-up photo of a lion, the photo is a portrait with a wide angle yes it has a little distortion but this makes the photo even more impactful, but you probably took too much risk to take this photo and maybe no longer have an arm or a leg.
Do you understand why knowing how to choose the best lens for the photo you want to take is super important?
Now you just need to know what you are going to photograph and program yourself accordingly. You don’t need to take your entire arsenal of lenses to photograph an event that just needs portraits of guests for example.
Of course, nothing prevents you from using a 35mm lens to make portraits. After all, the list above is not a rule, these are just guides to make our lives easier. In many cases you may be surprised at what a macro or wide-angle lens can do for your portraits.
Choosing a lens. Distance
Choosing the focal length can have a huge impact on your photo, not only on the photo itself, but also on your security and your pocket. Long lenses are often very expensive and large. But they are great for when you need to photograph a lion feeding in the savanna and you can’t scare it.
Of course, choosing the focal length can affect how your photo will look, and this is quite interesting. Different focal lengths distort the image, some more others less, but somehow they all distort what you are seeing somewhat.
It is no wonder that a portrait taken with an 85mm lens is extremely different from the less portrait taken with an 18mm lens. Many people think that this happens because of the quality of the lens, but it is not just that.
In addition to this we also have another type of deformation, the background compression, which happens with lenses with greater focal length. Of course, you can use this to your advantage as it changes the perspective of things.
Choosing a lens. Aperture
Choosing the lens aperture you want to use goes much further than taking pictures with a blurred background. And let’s face it, most people think that this alone is enough justification to buy an F / 1.2 lens.
Having a lens with the capacity for larger apertures also means having an enormous capacity for shooting in low-light environments, without relying so much on ISO.
Of course, lenses with large apertures like F / 1.4 will be great for various types of photography, and will always have their particularities, such as the ability to blur not only part of the background of the photo but also part of the foreground.
You will choose the lens aperture according to some needs, and of course availability.
If you are going to photograph a landscape for example, we usually want the focus to be accurate and with few blurred areas, so a very large aperture may not help you that much.
Otherwise, you need to take a portrait outdoors and would like to have only the model’s face highlighted, here a lens with large aperture helps you to isolate the main subject just using the lens aperture.
Not always a lens with a huge aperture can be the solution to isolate the subject from the photo, you can use background compression for this. Just as you can also use the distance between the subject and the background of the photo, everything we already talked about in the article about depth of field.
Lens brands and models
One of the things that end a lot of people’s day is choosing brand and models of things. And the lens market is extremely large and often complicated. In addition to having several models of lenses within the camera brand itself, we also have third party lenses, brands that manufacture lenses for cameras from brands A, B, C etc.
Some of these third party lenses have their own technology, image quality that is sometimes better than the camera’s own brand and so on. Giving just a simple example, a 50mm lens for Nikon, we will have at least the following options:
- Zeiss Milvus 50mm f / 1.4 ZF.2
- Nikkor 50mm f / 1.2
- Nikkor 50mm f / 1.4D AF
- Sigma 50mm f / 1.4 DG HSM ART Lens
- Yongnuo 50mm f / 1.8 MC
- Zeiss 50mm f / 2.0 Milvus ZF.2 Macro Lens
- Tokina Opera 50mm f / 1.4 FF
- Nikkor 50mm f / 1.8G AF-S Lens
Imagine for those who are buying a lens for the first time, with all these options in front of you, some of them costing almost nothing and others costing almost a kidney, what do you do to Choose the best lens? Let it for lucky decide? Going in the most expensive?
I fully agree that it is a very difficult decision, but not impossible to make. What is worth remembering that the best lens is the one that does the job you need, maybe if you need special conditions to take a picture you need to choose a special weapon. In the above situation I would choose the best cost-benefit ratio (best quality in general for the money I am willing to pay), this is what I would choose.
Mixing it all up
There is not a way to choose the best lens for the photo if you don’t know what you’re going to shoot before. It’s the same as I said in the last post, it’s good to have a plan and be prepared. But usually choosing a lens is not that difficult. If you have the money to invest I always advise you to buy the best lens you can, as they are an investment for the future. But if the money is low and you still need to choose the best lens for the job, use the tips you read here, and don’t look back because at the end of the day what counts are the photos you took and not with which lens you took that photo.
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